I am wearing a long, big, light, loose cotton shirt. It’s 10.15 at night, I didn’t go to work today and showered only an hour ago. I slipped into my pajyama, and for no reason whatsoever, decided to wear a full blown shirt with it’s full sleeves folded up. If Death is somewhere round the corner, lurking, keeping an eye on me, as it apparently does on everyone, I want her to know that this is how I would like to meet her. In a shirt that doesn’t go with the pajyamas, the time of the day, or the occasion. I am adequately calm and curious. There is the necessary detachment but also tingling sensations of mischief and melancholia. That sounds like an Adichie novel, no? I like it when life sounds like something that she must’ve written – loopy, not snappy; like rain on rivers – a bit chaotic but nothing unusual; a rare awareness of details and romantic visions laced with comedy. I fell in love with her, when I fell in love with you. You need lovers to fall in love with some books.

My heart broke a little today, when you said ‘Ceiling’. I realised I hadn’t thought of Ifem and Obinze in a long long time. I hadn’t thought of their banter, their pain and their politics. I hadn’t thought of the choices they made, the risks they took, and the lives they led. I hadn’t thought of the rhythms in which their story moved- like an odd sea- tumultuous on bright orange days and serene in the darkest of nights. My heart broke because not thinking about Americanah as frequently as I would, meant that I hadn’t thought about you – not enough.

I was buried between your thighs when you whimsically let that word slip, looking up, perhaps at the ceiling fan. We were cramped for space but inside you, I was comfortable beyond measure. You were perhaps looking up at the vastness beyond the ceiling – you never needed the sky to imagine. Our Americanah. We had to get here like this, and like this only. You were tired and sleepy, I was my usual jumpy self. We were about to start working on our separate assignments, and I wanted to steal a kiss. I played-cute, pulled your laptop aside, and leaned in to kiss you. You kissed me back, with the fullness of your lips, the tautness of your fingers and the deftness of your legs which coiled and clasped and pinned mine to the bed.

Perhaps I am calm and inspired tonight, because we had sex – finally after a long time (or at least what felt like a long time). Hopefully it’s a little more than that. That it isn’t about having sex after a long time (because the last time wasn’t all that way back, no?) but about having had sex without stepping over each other. That when I leaned in to kiss you, my dick wasn’t making plans. That I wasn’t whining like a child in a supermarket forcing you to behave like a parent. I felt like a lover today. I felt like that yesterday, day before, and the day before that in varying degrees. When you were speaking about the first time you went to the Cinema and watched the romantic adventure of Jack and Rose at the edge of your seat, and I blushed in front of a suspecting audience. When on a date night, reeling under carefully made pegs of whiskey, you asked me about the strange women I have fantasied about and I stuttered in awkwardness. When you asked me if I kiss you to write poems or write poems to kiss you and I kissed you. I felt a little less like a lover when we fought, again, over the same old useless binaries of desire-distance, romantic-mundane.

I wasn’t fighting today – not you, not my own pleasure, not the belief that what’s happening is what is meant to happen. That you are here with me, as much as you can. That I am present, as much as I can and that’s ok. It is beautiful to measure out vastness in little steps of delight. It is beautiful to think about Ifem and Obinze kissing by the bookshelf and leaving it at that. It is beautiful to write again without the compulsion to turn it into poetry of oomph and aah.

There is a lot more that I want to write. Write for instance, about why I find it hard to write when I am in pain and anxiety. I want to write more, so I don’t take this for granted. I want to keep writing to keep hoping that this is not a fluke shot of inspiration and love that came through only because today my dick was sated. I want to keep writing while I feel beautiful, so that I don’t stop writing about beauty when ugliness strikes.

I want to keep writing, because I want to keep loving.

 

Alice Neel_Sleep

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bworks1
the third body, Peggy Ahwesh

What if we stop believing in nation-states, where would we go? Will I move out of India? Or will India move out of me? If there is no other nation-state for me to go to, will all of us then be refugees? Who might decide the place for us refugees, will we have a Refugee Council?

Will we remember a myth after it dies? Does a myth become more powerful after it dies? Must we find a way to record the myth of the nation-state so it never gets powerful again? Will the Refugee Council create a museum of relics, what will they preserve and what will disappear? Poof

What if the end of the nation-state will simply mean a topographic change? Maybe a new layer will be added, from stone-sphere to…film-sphere. A scrotum for the nation-state. Or perhaps, we will levitate. Freed from the lie of the nation-state we will rise a foot above the lithosphere. Maybe Yudhishtra was onto something there.

What if cyberspace is in this new film-sphere? We will float a foot above in cyberspace. What if cyberspace becomes the new nation-state? And we no longer remember the nation-state so there’s no way of knowing that cyberspace is the nation-state. We are then in a vicious circle, rooted in the same spot, riding an elliptical to nowhere. And losing no weight.

What if in cyberspace I am not a cyborg but an Indian? What if Adam and Eve’s cyborgs meet and rewrite genesis. Will Genesis change because they are cyborgs or will them being cyborgs be a mere distraction so we don’t see that it is still Genesis?

From a foot above will film-sphere look that much different from stone-sphere?

notes

LoSHA happened almost right after I read Coetzee’s Disgrace. One of the names on the list was someone I had known. The moment of LoSHA I will remember and have referred to as the moment the heroes fell. This was a hero that fell. And many more did right after that. In the many conversations of quiet anger, disgust, violent outrage with friends during the time, I spoke about Disgrace as well. At the time I had many an imaginary conversation with the hero where I hand the book to him or speak of it as if he must have read it and is common knowledge. “You are in that place aren’t you?”

All the while I suppose in some sense I was hoping there was a sense of confusion(unwarranted) or ambiguity about sexual relations which men who are heroes will definitely have, since I have met many that are not who also feel just as confused. I let him have the confusion. I supposed there would be greater understandings in store for him in the near future, which will be far more disquieting, which will make the episode of LoSHA not simply uncomfortable, no more confusing, but sown into the skin. An ugly scar on the hero- almost villainous. I realise of course that this was all part of some wish fulfilment where I dreamt of the hero still somehow finding his way back to the pedestal, tougher. Such is the power of heroes. Soon I found out that no such thing had happened. The period of silence after LoSHA was no moment of reckoning, no vigorous shaking of the flawed heroism, no memory in flashes of similar conduct. It was stupid delusion. When he finally spoke he denied it outright.

But that’s not why I’m thinking about Disgrace today. I’m thinking of it after a few class discussions on the visualisation of rape. The only woman and the teacher in a class of ten, I was recollecting my constant nightmares of the Kerala police in Malayalam cinema. A decade worth of films that glorified the machismo of the hero, with a rape thrown in for added effect. Almost always by someone in khaki. It has continued in spurts with extremely uncomfortable scenes, that disgust some and titillate most and serves little other purpose but of recurring nightmares. Violence and the woman’s body has gone hand-in-hand with the sexualisation of the woman’s body. It was similar for me reading Sidney Sheldon books and finally having to stop after four consecutive books with a rape thrown in rather mindlessly. What is this thing about rape being visualised as an inevitability?

This is interesting when I go back to Disgrace and the two episodes of sexual assault. The quiet inevitability there. I’m using the same word, ‘inevitability’ but here the discomfort came from something else- the decisions made after that. There is a resignation somewhat. What is this resignation? It’s not Pink(movie), not about justice, but resignation. This sounds like a passive word, but there is a sense of breaking. Similarly with LoSHA- a sense of breaking. Not emancipatory or revolutionary, yet a breaking. A small little nerve that tears. Atleast that’s in a private repercussion of LoSHA. It’s not fear and nightmares, it’s not liberating or particularly about fighting. The articulation or the language in its lack of description that the act of visualising- for the reader, the spectator- causes a disturbance. Unexpected interference as disturbance.

notes

Frequently, I wonder if there is some undoing of the political in the understanding of this blog. It started off as wanting to be a radical form of writing for two women, trying to unravel some of the complexities in their understanding of Self and the World, sometime Love and the Family. The idea of anonymity also came from that space. We discovered soon that the anonymity of this space triggered a very different kind of writing and the political, sometimes brash voice that we hoped or foresaw did not happen at all. Instead the writing over time has become more quiet, more everyday. The World has become smaller, the Family fictional, the Love more difficult and written in hushed whispers and coded letters, the Self began to see autobiography as something entirely different.

With time we began to value this form of writing, perhaps appreciating that the anonymity is allowing for us to write the way we really want to and a more apparent political agenda seemed more forced. It has however rankled me from time to time that this space masks a little too ‘beautifully’ the various turmoils that is changing the Self in difficult ways. The periods of silence on the blog is usually when there is no sense of calm to transpose the writing into finding a nuance in some obvious political terms. What do I mean by this? I mean to say I don’t want to call Gender or Caste to explain how difficult it is to be with the  Family. Not because that is not what it is, but that popular writing has turned those terms into a miserably misunderstood, poorly articulated sloganeering which has done a lot more harm than good.  Yet, when this translates into easy conversation with a man which becomes my only space for discourse it makes me uncomfortable.

Blogs as autobiographical writing has so much potential in allowing a conversation with the Self. What then am I undoing with this beautiful looking blog? I wonder if its aesthetics, which is where we thought the political would be apparent is not so much dialectical as it is convenient. Convenience in having not to articulate in more uncomfortable ways.

What would I write about if I weren’t living at home?

What would I spend my money on if I weren’t living at home?

Where would I be on an evening of clear skies, if I weren’t at home?

What would nights look like if I weren’t living at home?

Who would my friends be if I weren’t living at home?

Would I eat the mangoes before they began rotting if I weren’t living at home?

What would I eat if I weren’t living at home?

What would I wear on a balmy summer morning if I wasn’t living at home?

Would love mean something different if I weren’t living at home?

What are little girls made of?

1325

 

 

 

I’m afraid of snakes. Real, imaginary, the word snake, the one on television, a hiss, a rattle, a rustle in the bushes, wet places, green wet places, ceilings they can drop from, trees they hang from, a pond or a lake, a pond which is green, wells, mossy wells. I don’t like the word ‘slither’.  Lizards remind me of snakes. They are like little snakes that live with me. That can fall with a splat on top of me. That leave tails behind the way snakes leave skins behind. Once when I was in a college hostel in a very wet town, a friend brought home a snake skin. They say, a snake will come after the snake skin. Do they smell it? Can snakes smell? There’s a small snake in the studio, in a tiny bottle of yellow liquid. Coiled- i don’t like the word coil- and head upright, tongue out. Is it real? Is it dead? Can it come back to life? I try not to look at it, but I can feel it stare at me. There is a hard disk in the cupboard I have not touched for a while now.

I don’t like the water, bobbing up and down does not look or sound appealing to me. I can’t bob, I like firm ground beneath my feet. That said, I don’t like wet ground, slush, mush, slippery and slimy. When I was a child I hated my mum giving me a bath, she used cold water and poured it over my head with a large mug. I screamed even as she hit me, pinched me, scratched me with overly long nails to keep me from slipping out of her hands and out of the bathroom. I remember that particularly incompassionate side of her and am still wary of it. When I started taking bath myself, there were many days when I would pour the water on my feet, an entire bucket of it to create the illusion that I was taking bath. If it was upto me even warm water couldn’t induce me to pour it over my head. I wonder if it was because of that instant where I had to close my eyes as my ears and nose filled with water. Then it felt like I might as well have been drowning in the sea- not that I had seen the sea back then. But sea- vast, deep, endless, harsh. I still cannot swim. I did own a swimsuit for years however, which I frequently tried on when no one was home.

Now however there seems to be no occasion for fear, simply a persistent bubble rising and falling perpetually in the pit of my stomach. A fear with no name and sound, I cannot cry it away, I try yelling it away and then the rage becomes a fear. I don’t seem to acknowledge fear as much anymore, but I recognise it as a constant.

 

*painting by chaim soutine- carcass of beef

something about dreams and sleeping and waking up. a little something about reading and uncovering secrets too

I continue waking up rather late in the morning. Around the time when the old uncle upstairs begins his morning breathing exercises, I crack an eye open and mull over the possibility of an early morning and a long day. Every morning however, this possibility seems just as wretched as the day before and I proceed to sleep- sleep through the noise of the morning and the sigh of stillness once everyone has left. On particularly good mornings the deep rumble in my stomach will wake me up to a large breakfast and all will seem right in the world. Those mornings are often slower than the others, because I reason with myself that a large breakfast needs rest after eating equal to the time taken to consume said breakfast. On particularly bad mornings, an enormous hunger will be met by upma that has carrot and peas in it. A breakfast I continue to refuse to acknowledge without an extraordinarily spiced pickle and piping hot tea. Both of which does not come to me on days that I wake up once everyone has left. Which is everyday.

On mornings that I don’t wake up with a familiar rumble, I begin my day trying to recall a dream. I find most often than not that there was a suggestion of a heavy meal in the dream, which is adequate reason for my stomach to feel heavy when I wake up instead of light and anxious to be filled. These heavy meals I find are always had in dreams where I see myself as a person atleast four times my size. The fat me in my dreams endlessly hurts the politically correct me in reality. Another thing of equal curiosity is that on nights that I begin my dreams with eating, I wake up feeling ravenous. Those are dreams where little pigs go to die and transform into marvellous variations of pork. Unlike my sister, I am neither afraid of birds nor do I find them to be particularly worthy of devouring in such dreams. But many little piggies do make their home happily in my stomach for nights on end.

Some days I dream in volumes and masses. Now this you might think is another way of speaking about my dreams of my fat self, but it is not. People and places appear distorted in relation to their actual sizes in a strange repetition of acts. I mean to say, that if A is giving B a gift I see the act in a hazy distortion of A, B and the gift in their actual sizes and in a magnified version of the same. On one such night I dreamt of giant mangoes rolling down a steep road. Freshly tarred, empty and burning in the hot sun I could see myself running- at once magnified and microscopic – away from mangoes that were palm-sized and boulder-sized. This dream terrified me so much that I woke up in a sweat. But once I had fallen asleep again, I saw myself squashed by a giant mango. Then the image kind of inverted into itself where I saw myself on the inside of the mango eating it inside out in happy reverie. Ever since I can smell ripe mangoes on my skin.

The nights when I read before sleeping, dreams expand into detailed universes that reveal important functions of everyday behaviour. I wake up with a distinct feeling that I have uncovered a secret, a potential epiphany that could change the course of my life. Those are the mornings that begin with an electricity of energy and end in deep vacuum, I seldom remember the secret itself. The next time I read however it occurs to me that I could continue reading without knowing the secret. That maybe I can drift into a dream while reading and continue reading there and wake up and continue dreaming then. Not in a cycle but in parallel lines that never intersect. And then for a while the dream seems infinite. Infinite until the book is over. And then there’s nothing again. Again, I think of uncovering a secret.

 

On beauty as in love. On beauty as is love.

Frida Kahlo about Diego Rivera-

“Growing up from his Asiatic-type head is his fine, thin hair, which somehow gives the impression that it is floating in air. He looks like an immense baby with an amiable but sad-looking face. His wide, dark, and intelligent bulging eyes appear to be barely held in place by his swollen eyelids. They protrude like the eyes of a frog, each separated from the other in a most extraordinary way. They thus seem to enlarge his field of vision beyond that of most persons. It is almost as if they were constructed exclusively for a painter of vast spaces and multitudes. The effect produced by these unusual eyes, situated so far away from each other, encourages one to speculate on the ages-old oriental knowledge contained behind them.

On rare occasions, an ironic yet tender smile appears on his Buddha-like lips. Seeing him in the nude, one is immediately reminded of a young boy-frog standing on his hind legs. His skin is greenish-white, very like that of an aquatic animal. The only dark parts of his whole body are his hands and face, and that is because they are sunburned. His shoulders are like a child’s, narrow and round. They progress without any visible hint of angles, their tapering rotundity making them seem almost feminine. The arms diminish regularly into small, sensitive hands… It is incredible to think that these hands have been capable of achieving such a prodigious number of paintings. Another wonder is that they can still work as indefatigably as they do.

Diego’s chest — of it we have to say, that had he landed on an island governed by Sappho, where male invaders were apt to be executed, Diego would never have been in danger. The sensitivity of his marvelous breasts would have insured his welcome, although his masculine virility, specific and strange, would have made him equally desired in the lands of these queens avidly hungering for masculine love.

His enormous belly, smooth, tightly drawn, and sphere-shaped, is supported by two strong legs which are as beautifully solid as classical columns. They end in feet which point outward at an obtuse angle, as if moulded for a stance wide enough to cover the entire earth.

He sleeps in a foetal position. In his waking hours, he walks with a languorous elegance as if accustomed to living in a liquefied medium. By his movements, one would think that he found air denser to wade through than water.”

This little piece is from https://www.brainpickings.org/2016/01/22/frida-kahlo-diego-rivera-love/

Dear _ ,

I find that as soon as I begin to write as if in a letter, I write differently. As if the letter might reach someone, maybe you. Today, I am wondering what it is like to have a day suitable for a novel. I have not written for more than two months now and still find no particular inclination to write.

I assumed that the romance of the place, the birds, the trees, the lack of internet even would drive me to write. I imagined writing passionate letters to you, continuing half-written stories and hoping that this page would be filled with a long list of vignettes from the extraordinary things that happen here everyday in the nothingness. I imagined I would read such excellent novels that they would serve as my muse even if I were shut up inside a tiny box-like room. I imagined that if I were present again in the same environment that produced writing that has lasted more than a year, I would write again- afresh, anew. The Usha ceiling fan runs well, still. The house is still as decapitated as before- leaky roof, wet walls, lights that don’t work, doors termite-ridden and littered with the kind that creeps and crawls let in everyday through little holes in mosquito meshes and little cracks in the walls. I take bath regularly with frogs and a lizard or two. You have to keep an eye on them, it’s a staring contest until one falls on your head and you vigorously shake it off. They splat, don’t fall, have you noticed?

I have seen things here that I have never before experienced in life, yet I feel unable to write. One could say that I have been weary by the end of everyday after having been out in the humidity. My fingers and toes swell up to little bulbs, causing my little toe much pain as it presses against my shoes. When I return at night, I am exhausted but also filled with the fullness of the day. Then why can’t I write? Where do the words go? There are plenty little spaces for them to slip through and into the forest. Is that what happens? It’s possible. Because it’s just as full of sound as always, the trees stay quiet only until they begin long periods of music. The birds sound cacophonous as if something has happened but they are the only thing that is happening. Yet, I have nothing poignant to say about them.

I’m quite melancholic about how unable I feel to write. And then I think of how beautifully you write and feel a touch of self-pity. There are no raw mangoes on the tree outside even though the branch hangs low. The smell of mangoes and the rain is distinctly missing- these could all be reasons for the lack of words. As for the reading I hoped to do, I have been reading some and even though I am not struck by anyone’s writing as such it captivates me so. That’s where I found this little trinket to begin the letter, what does it mean to have a day suitable for a novel? Is it filled with nothingness or is it filled with events?

The river, by the way is just as exquisite.

the scent of death

 

Flora_Sinensis_-_Sum_Xu_AND_Tortoise

 

The scent of death is warm, moist, and always slightly crumpled
Bundled up in fists like loose earth, shredded like petals of rose
It is the smell of marigolds that accidentally burned in the pyre
And violets that shriveled on tombstones

It is that spectral whisper you catch, amidst the chaos of the ritual
Or a moment you take to taste her breath while in throes of passion
It is restless like a flock of birds fluttering their wings in alien lands
It is also familiar, like the morning newspaper, at the end of the day

It moves slowly and carefully, like the hands of a scavenger
hunting for bones, in the ashy aftermath of sacred fire
Or, it can be swift and jarring – intrusive – like memories
of dull dinners, tasteless sex, and imminent partings

Gloriously romantic, like romping lovers
touched by a hint of melancholy
under the winter sun
next to the creek

Or, it can come
like an even feeling
on a night of blue
nothingness

Welling up in your shimmering eyes,
it flows down the length of my back
I taste it between your thighs
And always find it smeared
on your limitless lips

The scent of death is not climatic
It is not an interval either
It simmers like longing
stretching its limbs
forever in ecstasy
like a poem
interrupted